If you google ‘Marcel and Agnes trip around the world,’ you won’t find any hits on search engines which are related to our journey. Only one story will pop up, but that one has no relevance to our trip around the world. This comes as no surprise, since our trip took place during 1996 and 1997. In that period it was still common to communicate through letters and postcards. Nowadays, it is common practice to use your phone and to communicate your experiences on social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Skype. We did that a little bit different; we took pictures on a slide film in order to create great memories. Social Media was something we did not know yet.
I will always be grateful to our friends who inspired us to take up the challenge to go on a trip around the world, because it was their letters that triggered us to undertake our trip. They wrote us detailed stories to keep us up-to-date about their daily experiences which were very pleasant to read. Every time we received their letters a rush of excitement ran through our veins; we were very curious what they had been doing and we could not wait to receive new stories. They wrote their adventurous activities in such a way that it resembled reading a novel. We wanted to know more as soon as possible!
On a gloomy day in autumn, Agnes and I decided to travel thr world for 12 monts as well. By making this big decision, we joined the category of ‘exceptions’ – in the sense that I estimate not even 10 percent of people who really have the dream to take a trip around the world, actually realize it and grab their bags to travel for a long time. They cannot make up their minds because of their well-paid jobs, children, parents and family and a lot of other personal reasons. It is a pity for those who didn’t not make their dream come true. People feel safe in their comfort zone and do not easily take distance from their daily lives. In contrast to them, we decided to step outside our comfort zone. We quit ours jobs at the Netherlands Board of Tourism, booked our tickets and planned the route for our trip. And it goes without saying we used the travel bible Lonely Planet South-East Asia as our paper travel guide.
Compared to other backpackers who visit as many countries as they can, we made a conscious decision not to do that. During our 12 month journey we chose for a specific number of countries with the aim to see as much as we could of each of them. Nepal was the first country which we visited and afterwards we went to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. Next to that, we travelled through quite a few Indonesian islands and the final week we spent in China, Hong Kong.
It has been an extraordinary experience. The first few weeks we were still in a holiday mind set. Rushing from one attraction to the other. Soon we came to the conclusion that we still had 11 months left to do anything we wanted to. We had no schedule nor obligations and we forgot which day of the week it was. That was one of the highlights of our journey. Some people plan to travel longer than one year but for me a year was enough to enjoy the trip to its fullest. Your brains have to take a break after processing all those different experiences and impressions. Furthermore, our trip was also unforgettable because of the lack of quick communication tools. To be honest, there were some Internet cafés but we ignored them. We did not see the importance of entering one of them. There were a few backpackers who had asked us for our email addresses but we did not have any.Before we embarked on our trip to Asia we informed our friends and family in which cities we could receive post. We could not receive letters everywhere, only in a few post offices, for example in Kathmandu, Bangkok, Singapore, Sydney, Auckland and Hong Kong. Every time we went to one of these post offices, we were excited and full of hope that some letters would there from Holland.
Compare this to the way backpackers are travelling the world nowadays. Not updating your Facebook and Instagram with your prettiest photos and giving a brief summary about your experiences is unimaginable. We did not have smartphones and WIFI to communicate all the important happenings on the go. During our stay in Asia we called our friends and families in phone boxes and we used post cards and letters. I hadn’t seen my mother for 365 days literally. For you it might sound old-fashioned, but please realize this was only 19 years ago.
I never want to take a trip around the world again. I will always compare this second trip to the first one, which is going to be disappointing. Communication has changed tremendously. Everything you want know about your destination is already online, which means that your trip is much less adventurous because you know what you can expect. Being unreachable – being cut off of from you native ties – is I believe a key ingredient of travelling the world for a prolonged period of time. Otherwise, you are only focused on taking photos to update your accounts on Instagram and Facebook.. your prime concern becomes updating your friends an followers with your experieces – whereas it should be sucking up the adventure and experiences.
The purpose of going to travel the world is stepping out of your comfort zone and not communicate with your loved ones on a daily basis. Nonetheless, with the existence of social media this has become almost impossible. I am not criticizing modern times as they are changing and when a backpacker is planning his next destination now, he will choose his accommodation with the facility ‘free WIFI’ over one which does not provide it. Real travel is not knowing today where you are sleeping tomorrow…
I just believe that the total travel-around-the-world-experience in the pre Internet era is more profound than in today’s 24-hours-online society. So. Who is up for the first digital detox world trip?